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Best of Bob Dancer

Gaming Guru

 

Chickening Out Versus Gambling It Up

14 August 1999

Congratulations! You've just been dealt one of the most interesting hands in video poker: Kh Qh Jh Th 9h. A straight flush! Wonderful!

Your two best options are to "chicken out" and keep the straight flush (i.e., hold all five cards) or to "gamble it up" and go for the royal (i.e., hold KQJT, pray, and draw). Whichever way you go, you'll have company. Many people will play it exactly the way you do.

Although not totally on topic, this might be a good place to mention that the difference between praying in church and praying in a casino is that when you pray in a casino, you REALLY MEAN IT.

Although many people aren't sure how to play this hand, in truth it isn't close at all. The correct play is correct by a mile. The wrong play is very wrong. However, which of the two plays is correct depends upon the game you are playing!

If you are playing a jacks or better type of game (including bonus poker, double bonus poker, double double bonus poker, plus a variety of others), "chickening out" is best. If you are playing deuces wild, "gambling it up" is far superior. How come there is such a difference?

First, let's look at the jacks or better games. Playing for dollars, the straight flush is worth $250. (You are playing five coins, aren't you?) This amount is constant. When you try for the royal, the amount of your win isn't constant, so we go with the average. You'll occasionally hit the royal, which pays you $4,000, but slightly more than half the time you'll end up with zero. The average amount ends up between $93 and $95, depending upon exactly how much flushes and straights are worth in the game you are playing. By any criteria, losing an average of at least $155 in one hand on a dollar game is a bundle.

In deuces wild games, the value of the 4-card royal remains in the $90 to $100 range, depending upon the schedule of the game. Although straights and flushes are worth a lot less in this game, if you draw one of the four deuces you'll end up with a wild royal that is worth $125 or so. The big difference comes in the value of keeping the straight flush. This is usually worth $45 or $50. Again, throwing away at least $40 because of misplaying one hand is huge.

There are two important lessons here. These lessons are basic in nature, but several video poker players haven't mastered them.

First, the correct play for a given hand varies widely from game to game. I have seen players playing jacks or better with one hand, and deuces wild with the other, and making the same plays on both machines. This is a very expensive habit.

Second, each game has a variety of schedules. Jacks or better varieties, for example, can pay 30, 35, 40, or 45 for a full house. They can pay 25, 30, or 35 for a flush. The machines look alike, but they return very different amounts to the player. Although some casinos have signs "certifying" or "guaranteeing" a certain return on their best games, most casinos let you fend for yourself. If you can tell the difference between a good schedule and a bad one, you have a chance at this game. If you can't tell the difference, get prepared to lose, because bad schedules outnumber good ones by a wide margin.

How do you find out which schedules are best? One way is to read. This column provides information each month, and several authors have information in book form. No surprise, I think my stuff is excellent, but you'll find other writers in the bookstores too. If you can get to Vegas, I regularly teach free classes. (See Skip Hughes' website www.vid-poker.com for a current schedule.) A third way is to work it out on a computer. Bob Dancer Presents WinPoker is the best program for this, in my opinion, but there are others.

One way that doesn't work real well is practice, practice, practice. While it is true that experienced players "miss" fewer hands than new players do, generally speaking, the main thing that experience gives you in this game is the ability to make your mistakes faster.

That's it for now. Until next time, go out and hit a royal flush.

Bob Dancer
Bob Dancer is America’s premier video poker authority.
His booklets Video Poker Reports: Deuces Wild, 9/6 Jacks or Better, and 10/7 Double Bonus are considered the most accurate strategies ever devised for these games.

Bob Dancer Presents WinPoker is the premier computer trainer for video poker. It requires Windows 95 or newer, and has 15 of the most popular games, including Double Bonus, Double Double Bonus, Double Joker, etc. plus the ability to load in most other games. It has won several competitions for being the best video poker software.

Bob Dancer Websites:

www.zamzone.com
Bob Dancer
Bob Dancer is America’s premier video poker authority.
His booklets Video Poker Reports: Deuces Wild, 9/6 Jacks or Better, and 10/7 Double Bonus are considered the most accurate strategies ever devised for these games.

Bob Dancer Presents WinPoker is the premier computer trainer for video poker. It requires Windows 95 or newer, and has 15 of the most popular games, including Double Bonus, Double Double Bonus, Double Joker, etc. plus the ability to load in most other games. It has won several competitions for being the best video poker software.

Bob Dancer Websites:

www.zamzone.com